July 8, 2010

High on Fire – Blessed Black Wings

After I finished listening to this album for the first time, I immediately awarded it a high rating and put it on my “best of the decade” shortlist. Every subsequent listen, I’ve started outHigh on Fire - Blessed Black Wings by second-guessing that initial judgement. I think to myself, “Why did I rate this so highly? I don’t really dig this kind of metal.” Then I get a few tracks further in, and it all becomes clear again – High on Fire deliver a gutsy, technically brilliant, adrenaline pumping rockfest that does so many things exactly right, that any silly, negative genre preconceptions just fade into insignificance. The vocals are arguably the lone chink in the trio’s armour, as Matt Pike’s constant monotone growl sounds consistently ridiculous while never really displaying anything close to what you’d call “range”. It suffices, but never really shines. The sheer, fiery assault delivered by the instruments, though, is another matter entirely. The band display epic power coupled with impressive versatility, alternating between short, sharp bursts of chugga-chugga-chugga riffage that are immediately reminiscent of classic Motohead, and long, bluesy passages in which they allow the guitars to breath for a more spacious sound. Deep down, albums like this one are really all about fun and excess – I can assure you that Blessed Black Wings delivers both in spades.